As we start paying closer attention to Poland (and the Ukraine) and the 2012 Euros, it behooves us to recognize that it was 27 years ago this month that 17,000 striking workers at Poland's Gdansk shipyard won the right to establish Eastern Europe's first free trade union. The founding of Solidarity would prove to be a pivotal moment in the struggle against Communism in the 1980s.
However, the free market has not been kind to the workers of Gdansk, who are once again fighting for their survival. The European Union claims that Gdansk is propped up by government aid in violation of EU regulations and is demanding that the struggling port close down two of its three slipways to cut costs. The port had until the end of yesterday to accept the proposal or hand back the billions it has received in government aid. But at the 11th hour, the Polish government countered with its own proposal, which likely includes a plan to privatize the shipyard and sell it to a Ukrainian and Italian consortium.
Workers from Gdansk are planning a demonstration in Brussels on Aug. 31, the anniversary of the Solidarity Agreements, which won the union the right to organize. The ruling Law and Justice party traces its roots back to Solidarity, so the closure of the shipyard would be a major blow to Poland's president and prime minister, the staunchly nationalist Kaczynski twins, who may face an early election next year.
Poland's iconic shipyard hits back [MSNBC]
Poland fights for Gdansk shipyard [BBC]
Historic Gdansk shipyard struggles for survival [Polish Radio External Service]